Volunteering can be a significant leg up in your job search. An ariticle in Fast Company, Volunteering Will Save Your Career (Or Put You In A New One), showed that 20% of hiring managers make decision based on volunteer work. It can serve the same basic function as an internship: it can grow your network and give you additional experience to put on your résumé.
Growing your network
Volunteering gives you a chance to meet people from all positions and industries, see how they work, and show how you work while in the pursuit of a shared passion. Follow these steps to grow your network:
- Find a not-for-profit company whose purpose you believe in
- Inquire about volunteering opportunities — many organizations have specific days dedicated to big volunteer pushes
- Volunteer before the volunteer push events so that you are familiar with the organization and how they work
- Join one of the big volunteer drives. During the event, you can chat with other volunteers and grow your network.
With volunteering, you’re giving back to your community and helping a cause you truly believe in. This strategy allows you to meet people you’d have no other way of meeting, show them your worth, and gives you a shared passion as a starting point.
Another way volunteering can improve your job search is through the acquisition of desirable skills or experience. Volunteering can fill in where your résumé is thin. A long term volunteer position, for example, can counter balance a series of shorter jobs. Volunteering can also show that you are passionate about an industry or position. Here are several ways to gain experience through volunteer work:
- Volunteer as a project manager – be the leader in putting together a fundraiser, volunteer drive, or major event for an organization you are already known in. This should yield measurable results you can use on your resume and share in interviews
- Learn a new skill by volunteering in that area – then put it on your résumé. For example, volunteering on phone lines for an organization gives you experience with handling customers and resolving disputes. Volunteering during a fundraising drive gives you basic sales experience
- Volunteer in an industry you’d like to learn more about. Even doing grunt work will give you an inside edge.
- If you want to career change, volunteering in your new sector or role shows you are serious about the change
Consider the time you’ve spent volunteering. What have you really done for the organization you’re involved in? What could you be doing with them and how does it impact your job search?